by Susan Warner
Many Christians were in shock recently when the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (PC/USA), by a slim margin, voted to divest from three major international companies that do business in Judea, Samaria and Israel (Hewlett Packard, Caterpillar and Motorola). Assembly leaders claim the fault lies in Israel’s “illegal occupation” of Judea and Samaria (also called the West Bank) and its oppression of Palestinian neighbors. But there is a much more sinister agenda behind this action.
While the PC (USA) asserts that they are not (at all) motivated by anti-Semitism and they take “no position” on Zionism, they nevertheless lay all problems in the area at Israel’s feet, blaming the so-called “illegal occupation.” However, a recent article by NGO MONITOR has found strong evidence of underlying anti-Semitism in the PC (USA) leadership.
Currently, the vicious battle against the Jewish people and Israel is being waged by international alliances of Christians, Muslims, the hard Left, the press, and academia for the express purpose of instigating Israel’s destruction.
Thousands of representatives of Christian organizations like the PC (USA) gather annually or bi-annually in national enclaves to discuss the business of their denomination as they have for centuries. In some more liberal leaning activist denominations like PC (USA), the agenda includes Israel. The Methodists, Presbyterians (USA), the Scottish Reformed Church and the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Church of England, The United Church of Canada, and the World Council of Churches all seem to have a stake in proposing schemes to punish Israel.
The most vocal of Israel’s defamers are Christian pastors and leaders like Stephen Sizer (Anglican), Naim Ateek (Anglican), and Gary Burge (Evangelical/Protestant). They cloak their mission to undermine Israel under an aggressive “peace and justice” cover-up. They ask the question, “Does Israel really have a legitimate right to call the land its own (Zionism)?” to which their answer is a resounding “no.”
If you bother to read Steven Sizer’s recent book Christian Zionism The Road to Armageddon, you will discover there that Christian Zionism is not simply Christians standing for the rights of Israel to live in the land. According to Sizer, Christian Zionism is a plot to undermine the USA and the world. Needless to say, Sizer affirms the decision of the PC (USA) to divest from the companies who do business in Judea and Samaria. Steven Sizer speaks around the Western and Islamic world against Christian Zionism and Israel’s right to continue to live in the land of its ancestors.
In order to justify this Anti-Zionism stance, PC (USA) and its allies need to do to the Jews the very same thing the church planned to do in the second century. They need to invert the truth, demonize, and ridicule Israel in order to accomplish what until now has been their elusive goal of destroying Israel and the Jewish people.
Just like the Presbyterian (USA) Council last week, the church councils of centuries past turned their language against the Jews. Name calling couched in fancy theologies justified the persecution of Jews. While the world is burning in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Africa, while Christians are slaughtered in those same lands, the daily headlines accuse Jews of blocking the progress of world peace by building apartments in Jerusalem or manufacturing seltzer in Ma’ale Adumim.
At the root of the Christian animus towards Jews is a theological narrative which has stoked the ancient fires of hostility for two millennia.
In her recent column, Melanie Phillips wrote,
Within the Protestant world, many churches are deeply hostile to the State of Israel – What is less known is the more disturbing fact that this perverse animus is increasing fed not by the politics of the present moment but by theology.The theology that Ms. Phillips mentions is known by a variety of names but is undergirded by the concept of “Replacement Theology.” This term grew out of the early Church where the Founding Fathers laid claim to the promises God made to Abraham and his offspring. They accused Jews of being “Christ killers” and said that God had nullified His covenant with Abraham and transferred his “Covenant blessings” to the Church which they called “The Israel of God.”
Christianity, birthed from the womb of Judaism two thousand years ago, continues a mission to assassinate its very own Jewish parents. Ridicule, defamation, distortion, fire, and the sword, have all punctuated the Christian enterprise for two thousand years. “God,” say many Christians, “has replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people.”
The Emperor Constantine (In 325 CE,) laid the organizational groundwork of a “Christianity” designed for Roman pagans and non-Jews. The Apostle Paul was the last vestige of the Jewish foundation of the original Church. After he died (65 CE), it didn’t take the gentile Church Fathers long to muster up a case against the Jews.
Christians claimed that God’s “everlasting covenant” with the Jews through Abraham was defunct and claimed the covenant blessings. This Christian theology of “Replacement,” also called “Supersessionism,” energized a paradigm of anti-Judaism that informs some of Western Christianity today.
This Replacement concept is the framework for the most virulent forms of the anti-Zionism we currently see. For PC (USA) or the Scottish Church or any of the others who demonize Israel to admit to anti-Semitism might bring world criticism. So they couch their concerns in words and actions that are subtle inversions of the truth like calling Judea and Samaria “illegally occupied.” When Jordan actually did “illegally occupy” Judea and Samaria from 1948 to 1967, the world heard not a peep of opposition from these churches.
From roughly 165 CE through about 500 C.E., the “Fathers” tilled a garden of Jewish hatred. To make everything official, the Emperor Constantine, who, it is said, had a personal epiphany of Jesus, called Bishops around the Empire to attend the First Council of Nicea (325 CE). This Council, like the Council of PC (USA) last week, concocted its anti-Jewish, anti-Israel narrative which served to advance Church goals and bolster the Imperial Roman Empire at the same time.
The Nicean Council succeeded in manufacturing the first layer of this new “imperial religion.” Constantine dubbed Christianity the exclusive state religion. John Chrysostom (407C.E.) followed and honed the narrative against the Jews to a fine edge without any opposition. Later key theologians embarked on some far-flung theologies which are respected by some Christians today.
Soon, civil laws throughout the Empire followed suit, prohibiting Jews from holding public office or from eating with or marrying Christians. Forced conversions became commonplace. Demonizing, bullying, torture, and mass killings flourished throughout Catholicism and later Protestantism.
Today, much of Western Christianity occupies that very same anti-Jewish space with not even a grasp of its ancient foundations in Hebrew Scripture. Instead, its paradigm is as a stand-alone creature amputated from its root system.
The PC(USA) and their collaborators are clones of the Founding Fathers. The theological paradigm is that Israel and the Jews of today are no longer under the covering of the original, eternal covenant with God. Today’s Jews, according to the narrative, are “different.” And since God removed his blessings from them when they “killed the Christ.” The church has replaced the Jews for all time. This false theology of supersessionism is interwoven into the fabric of Catholicism, Anglicanism, Presbyterianism and other branches of Calvinist and Reformed theologies.
Within Protestantism, Catholicism, and the Orthodox Churches today there are, of course, some denominations more extreme than others. Protestant Evangelical groups (Bethlehem Bible College, Sabeel) for example, hold conferences, like Christ at the Checkpoint, with the underlying purpose of nullifying Jewish claims to the Land of Israel and dubbing Jesus a Palestinian. Partnering together at the bi-annual Christ at the Checkpoint Conference are notables such as Sizer, Ateek, Lynn Hybels (Willow Creek Church) Tony Campolo (Eastern University) and other advocates of disabling Israel and replacing her with a one-state Palestinian solution.
Evangelical Christians, those who interpret the Bible literally, have been among Israel’s best and most loyal friends. But the winds are shifting yet again as more and more Christian Evangelicals are lured by a pro-Palestinian, pro-”peace and justice” narrative. Some Christian/Israel loyalists are concerned about this trend and are working to counter it. A few rays of light and hope peek through the cracks with groups like Christians United for Israel, Friends of Israel, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, and Bridges for Peace among them.
The paradigm that grips many Christians with a theologically based hatred of Jews and Israel must be broken. Israel’s survival is not guaranteed.
Susan Warner founded Olive Tree Ministries in 2004 and has been studying, teaching and writing about Christian-Jewish relations and Christian Anti-Semitism for over fifteen years. Visit her web site
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